Do You Feel The Love?


The first step in changing our world is an examination of what actually constitutes reality. We are all products of our environment and as a result we inevitably take many things for granted, believing them to be the natural order of things.

Social reality is an expression of human agreement, someone is the president of a country and has the powers of that office because a system of government is created and acknowledged by the inhabitants of that country. When the fundamental agreements which frame belief and behaviour change, social reality will change.(1)

In the early twentieth century, Antonio Gramsci, who spent most of his life in one of Mussolini’s prisons, identified a phenomenon he called cultural hegemony. Gramsci used this term to describe how we all believe that the way things are is the natural order of things.

A good example of how cultural hegemony operates is slavery. There was a time in the Western world when slavery was considered ‘the natural order’. Certain people were seen as a slave class and were owned by other people. Social realities, and even the economies of the time, were built around this idea and nobody – even the slaves in all likelihood – thought there was anything that could be done to change it.  Slavery was, in fact, so much part of social reality that wishing to escape from it was seen as an illness.

In 1851, American physician, Samuel A. Cartwright described a mental illness he called drapetomania – an illness he believed afflicted slaves who were inclined to run away. Cartwright said this illness was a result of masters who, “made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals.“(2)

He went on to say that,

“If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away.“(3)

It’s now clear to us that slavery is not the natural order of things but rather a social reality based on economic motives and mistaken ideas. People like us made that reality.  And, equally, people like us changed that reality.

So, how do we tell the difference between unchangeable reality which is outside of our control and reality that can be changed? As someone pointed out to me recently not everything is possible.  But what happens if we just accept the limitations (as we see them) and don’t try to change things? If God had wanted us to fly he’d have given us wings…

The question is tricky.  How can we tell the difference between mutable and immutable reality before we begin?  Maybe there is a solution just around the corner which we can’t see from where we stand?  Which seems like a good reason to start out.  And yet it is true that some efforts to effect change will be futile – so, how much banging our heads against the unchangeable can we stand before our heads explode?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, by the way.  Sorry.  But maybe you do.

I have been thinking about it though and all I can come up with is that I wonder if the answer is something to do with love?  Not Hollywood love but real, raw, visceral, never-giving-up love.  The kind of love that parents have for their children.  The kind of love that holds the atoms of a stone together.  Where nothing is too hard or not worth the effort even when the chances of success seem slim.  The kind of love that makes us try and try and try even when we fail and fail and fail – and then when we’ve tried everything possible – we try something else.  Maybe we try the impossible.  Because it matters.

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1) Paul Lample, Revelation and Social Reality, p.9

2)  Cartwright, Samuel A. (1851). “Report on the Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race”DeBow’s ReviewXI.http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3106t.html. Retrieved 2007-10-04.

3) Arthur L. Caplan, James J. McCartney, and Dominic A. Sisti (2004). Health, Disease, and Illness: Concepts in Medicine. Washington, D.C.:Georgetown University Press. p. 35 ISBN 1589010140.

Do Some Children Matter More Than Others?


Roméo Dallaire – Canadian Senator and ex-Commander of the United Nations Forces in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994 – is dedicating his life to trying to eradicate the use of children as weapons of war.

Senator Dallaire has a foundation dedicated to this cause.  The Child Soldiers Initiative is, by it’s own description – A partnership to build the will, knowledge, collaboration and tools necessary to eradicate the use of child soldiers.  This is what Roméo Dallaire himself has to say about the project –

At any given time there are a quarter of a million child soldiers globally experiencing a suffering that most of you cannot even imagine.

These children are routinely abducted violently from their families at a tender age, and are subjected to forcible confinement, torture, threats, rape, brainwashing, slavery, starvation, intoxication through drugs and sleep deprivation. They are forced to carry heavy loads, including human bodies, not just weaponry. They are often paired up and killed if their partner escapes.

People are often surprised to hear that 40 percent of child soldiers are girls. Girls are often forced to become sex slaves as well as soldiers, cooks and nurses and must deal with pregnancy under these conditions too often.

The use of child soldiers is horrifically true and is taking place now. The status quo is completely unacceptable and international proposed solutions are in danger of failing.

While many groups have been working on demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation of Child Soldiers, which is absolutely essential, I have discovered in my research at the Carr Center For Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, that little if any analysis of this problem is being done through the security lens, to better understand the tactical how and why child soldiers are being used.

Why is this child soldier weapon system the most sophisticated, low-technology weapon system on the battlefield today? What makes that weapon platform so effective?

We must work to stop recruitment during conflict.

I want to identify ways to do this, to render it ineffective to use Child Soldiers. I want to eradicate the use of child soldiers. This is why I have founded the Child Soldiers Initiative.

CSI is working to build the political will now needed to properly enforce laws that protect children and bring perpetrators to justice.

The CSI team is also working to build the will and technical capacity of military, human rights and humanitarian organizations, as well as host nation actors, to stop the use of child soldiers.

The aim is to bring all these actors together so they work cohesively for better results. The CSI team itself is a unique mix of stakeholders from the humanitarian, academic and security sectors.

Some people think that the child soldier issue can never be eradicated as long as there are wars. To this I respond that humanity has created other evil things which we have had the morality and good sense to abolish such as slavery, apartheid and chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

CSI is a call to action to put stopping the use of child soldiers on everyone’s agenda.

Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire (Retired)

LGen The Hon R.A. Dallaire, O.C.,C.M.M.,G.O.Q.,M.S.C.,C.D., (Ret’d)

In the video below Senator Dallaire describes his understanding of the lives of child soldiers – 40% 0f whom are girls – and his proposals for eliminating this evil practice.  If you have time listen to the entire discussion, it’s well worthwhile.  But if you are short of time just listen from c. 52 minutes onwards – he asks some interesting – and challenging – questions.

And if you can spare more time perhaps watch this as well.

http://childsoldiersinitiative.org/index.php

Trusting The Truth


Do you love your children?  For most of us the answer is Yes.

Child 1

Child 1 (Photo credit: Tony Trần)

Do you sometimes make them do things that are unpleasant – or even painful – for their own good?

Again the answer is Yes and we do this because we love them, don’t we?

All the doctor and dentist appointments.  The homework and discipline and training in the face of reluctance and protest.  But parents suck it up because they know it is for the future well-being of their child.

My niece had very serious scoliosis and had two extremely painful surgeries when she was just 13.  I am happy to say that they were fantastically successful surgeries but there were no guarantees beforehand and they did involve a lot of pain and suffering for her whole family – and especially for her.

What would you do to prevent your child being ostracized, cut off or rejected?  If she might be condemned to never being respectable.  Never finding a husband.  Never having a family of her own.  You’d do a lot – most of us would – even if it was a risky and painful road, we’d be frightened not to take it.

It takes immense courage to stay with what you know to be true in the face of social pressure and tradition.  What if you are wrong?  It’s a scary place to be.

We can’t always trust our gut.  Our gut will tell us to fit in and do whatever the herd does because there’s ‘safety’ that way.  The people in this video are showing magnificent courage.  Their capacity to hold fast and stay with the truth even while they recognise the pressure around them is inspiring.

I am in awe.

The Future is Made from Wishes


When I first saw this I didn’t think I’d post it as I have posted so much – so many links, so many articles, so many videos – on the importance of the education of girls and the development of women for the welfare of all human societies.  At this point even I am sick of hearing myself talk about this subject.

But I couldn’t talk myself out of posting this.  Please watch it.  It is so comprehensive and so complete that you’ll be glad you did watch it.

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Armour


Life is a difficult place.

For everyone.

It requires deft navigation and some sort of protection .

Mostly we get hurt and as a consequence build defences so high and so strong and so completely that not only do we keep others out, we also keep ourselves in.  Hidden and afraid.  Cut off from real contact outside ourselves, we offer our masked face composed from person-coloured armour to the world.

Is this the price we pay for safety?

Is it too high? 

Open.

Chatter in.

Chatter on.

Chafing on my skin and brain and heart.

Not your fault.  Not even my fault.

But true.

Need spiders.

(Mary Jane Kennedy)

This is How We’re All Connected


We all know that we are connected to our loved ones.

Many of us can tell stranger-than-fiction stories about incidents in our lives when we have ‘known’ something and we cannot explain quite how we do know it.

Perhaps our experience of these connections becomes conscious when we are also conscious of how we feel about another person?

But conscious or otherwise.

Known or ignored.

For better or worse.

We are all connected to everyone else on the planet – even when we don’t know them or love them or think about them.

This is just a material fact.

It doesn’t need to be taken on faith alone because this is how it works…

Thanks to Michaela at The Living Room for finding that wonderful clip – http://room4truth.com/2012/02/22/why-everything-is-connected-to-everything-else/

The entire programme from which this clip is taken is well worth watching – here is the link to Part I, in case you are interested (the other parts are also on YouTube)

The Magnificent Self-Made Person


Everyone is familiar with the concept of the ‘self-made’ person – the man or woman who pulls themselves up by the bootstraps – (usually) from poverty – and (usually) makes a great deal of money.  This person is lauded and admired and held up as a example to all of us of how we can succeed in the world in spite of humble beginnings.

But there is a much more powerful way to understand the concept of being ‘self made’.

A way that isn’t as widely recognised but which is much more important for our well-being than mere financial success.

We can come to see that we are truly the creators of ourselves – because…

If we act with kindness – we become kind people.

If we act with generosity – we become generous people.

If we act in a courageous fashion – we become brave people.

And so on.

These actions of ours are what confer our real identities on us.

Not the circumstances of our birth.

Not whether or not we were lucky or unlucky in the ‘decent parents’ and ‘enough to eat’ lotteries.

Not our gender or race or how wealthy or educated or lucky or even beloved we were in our early lives.

Not our unemployment or accomplishment or even our successes.

I am not underestimating the difficulties of overcoming abuse or grinding poverty or neglect or abandonment or grief or the myriad other things that cause us suffering.  All the pain in the world is real and it all deserves to be acknowledged and alleviated if at all possible – it just doesn’t get to define us.

This may seem like a small point but I feel it is of vital importance in a world where when we’ve been victims we are afraid to say we have suffered, because we are frightened to be labelled as broken in some important way that makes us less valuable or capable or wise.

We are afraid that we are tainted by our suffering when, in fact, suffering has the capacity to make us stronger – like tempered steel – and more valuable, capable or wise than those who have suffered less.

Or, as Khalil Gibran puts it,

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Refusing to be created and defined by our suffering gives us back our power.  The more we learn to feel pride – and shame – for our own actions, the less we feel ashamed of what may have befallen us in our lives.

And it’s not all about ourselves.  If we saw that we ourselves are the sum total of our own deeds and not a misshapen creation of our victimisations, then we’d be able to see others in the same way.

If that happened, social stigma as a result of rape, poverty, abuse, disability etc, would evaporate like a mist and, while the pain of the ‘suffering’ would still exist, at least it wouldn’t be complicated by undeserved shame.

We may not always have a say as to how we suffer but we do have a say in how we see it.

So, in the spirit of real self-sufficiency, let’s try to be the magnificent, scarred, battle-weary, tempered, self-made people we were always meant to be…

The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. (1)

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Picture: UNICEF/Rokiatou Guindo

(1) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp 178-9